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Sherman Military map showing the marches of Maj. Gen. W.T. Sherman, 1863-1865. (Library of Congress)

Civil War, 1861-65


The war forced hundreds of thousands of southerners to relocate permanently, and millions of refugees fled the region-wide economic depression that followed it. In 1864, the American Union Commission estimated that 80,000 southern refugees had fled to the border areas and northern states.

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In November and December of that year, the Union Army under William Sherman intentionally destroyed homes and property along a 250-mile swath from Atlanta to Savannah that was home to about 200,000 people. Thousands of former slaves followed Sherman on his march to the sea. To rid the army of them, he issued an order granting them title to abandoned rice plantations in Saint Helena and other villages among the sea islands of Georgia and South Carolina.

In the 1870s, the Census Bureau recorded a net loss of more than 300,000 migrants in the nine former Confederate states that had been heavily damaged by the war and the occupation (Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia). In the 1880s, these states lost a net of 450,000 migrants; in the 1890s, they lost 550,000.

Many of the south's economic refugees became part of the larger migration to the western territories, but significant numbers went to northern cities, Canada, and Mexico, where their descendants still keep the faith.

In 1905, 68 southern women founded the Robert E. Lee chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy in Seattle. Today, the organization has divisions in 20 states and chapters in 15 cities, including Chicago, Boston, and Albuquerque. The Sons of Confederate Veterans also remains active, and their website will soon feature a registry of Confederate graves.

Some Confederate refugees left the U.S. entirely. Perhaps 4,000 "Confederadoes" sailed to Brazil and built settlements in several towns, including Santarem in the Amazon basin and Santa Barbara D'Oeste in the state of Sao Paulo.

The Santa Barbara descendants still hold a "Festa Confederada" picnic on the second Sunday in April that features biscuits and fried chicken, as well as renditions of "Dixie" sung in Brazilian-Portuguese accents. (See the list of family names in the Campo Cemetery at Santa Barbara D'Oeste.)

Some of those displaced by the Civil War were buried far from home. The Union Army established 81 National Cemeteries for its 325,000 dead soldiers, including 56 that were in Confederate territory. And a website maintained by William T. Hobgood contains links to 2,445 cemeteries where Confederate soldiers are buried. They rest in 35 states and seven countries outside the U.S., including Ireland and New Zealand.

The Lost Colony of the Confederacy, by Eugene Harter
The Public Good: Philanthropy and Welfare in the Civil War Era, by Robert H. Bremmer
The Official Military Atlas of the Civil War, by George B. Davis et al
Population of States and Counties in the United States: 1790-1990, U.S. Bureau of the Census
Historical Statistics of the United States, Colonial Times to 1970, U.S. Bureau of the Census
A New Life, A New South
Chronological and Alphabetical Record of the Engagements of the Great Civil War, by Charles Cooper

Date: Sept. 15, 2005

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